The Stories Behind the Tradition
by Mia Cronan
Historically speaking, it is probable that there were two Valentines that lived many years ago, both martyred around 270 A.D. Oftentimes, during that time period, bishops died at the hands of persecutors because they could not easily hide, like other Christians of that time could. Sometimes they died trying to protect other Christians, hoping that those Christians would not be found out. One of the Valentines, a priest, allegedly died this way.
The other Valentine was a priest and physician in Rome during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II c. 269. It is said, by some, that todays tradition of sending Valentine cards to loved ones stems from Valentines practice of sending letters of love and encouragement to those Christians who lived in fear of persecutors. He died on February 14th.
Another later legend was born of the notion that it is on the feast day of St. Valentine when birds begin choosing their mates for springtime. If that were the case, those who believed this would see it as an ideal day to remind their sweethearts of their love!
But the historical basis of the custom is the ancient Roman youth festival on the even of Lupercalia, February 14th. In centuries before Christ, the beginning of the year was March 1st, so the youth of the Roman Empire chose their sweethearts for the next year on this day. The youth festival on February 14th stood under the patronage of the goddess Juno Februata.
Of course, when Christianity was accepted in the Empire, the worship of pagan gods ceased, but many of the customs, including the feast of youth, continued. In place of Juno Februata, St. Valentine became the accepted patron of the feast day, as was the case with other Christian saints on their respective feast days. So, St. Valentine became the patron saint of youth and young love.
As parents, we can try starting a new Valentines Day tradition in our homes. Children love to send Valentine cards to their friends. As they do so, we can explain that when we send a message of love, we should also say prayers of thanks to God for our loved ones and the precious gift of our loving and affectionate friends, asking for St. Valentines intercession and blessing for those to whom we sent cards. Additionally, we might offer up a prayer of thanks to God for the love that He gives us to share with others!
Mia Cronan is the mother of three daughters, ages 4, 2, and 6 months, living in Pennsylvania. She also co-publishes a Web site for stay-at-home moms, called Main Street Mom. The site offers support, inspirational stories, comedy, money-saving tips, a nationwide playgroup listing, and much more. Visit Main Street Mom at http://mainstreetmom.com/ Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the work-at-home newsletter, by writing to email@example.com.